The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 8, 2014

Marti suing Morgan Creek Vineyards over accident

By Josh Moniz

---- — CAMBRIA — The daughter-in-law of the owners of Morgan Creek Vineyards is suing the business and a Mankato man for injuries suffered in 2012 when she was run over by an ATV near the business.

Barbara Marti, 49, of New Ulm, filed the personal injury lawsuit May 27. She claims Shawn Hearn, 43, is liable because he operated the vehicle while intoxicated. She also alleges Morgan Creek is liable because the business gave Hearn consent to operate its ATV. She cites a Minnesota statute that asserts that a driver is considered an agent of the vehicle's owner if consent was given to use the vehicle.

Marti is related to Morgan Creek owners Paula and George Marti through marriage. However, she is involved in divorce proceedings.

The lawsuit was served to Morgan Creek and Hearn sometime in late August or early September 2013. Minnesota law requires a formal filing of a lawsuit within a year of it being served.

The two sides have been negotiating possible solutions in the matter since the papers were served. Both sides are tentatively scheduled to participate in mediation Friday.

According to police reports, Barbara Marti was injured Sept. 22, 2012, when she was run over by John Deere Gator ATV driven by Hearn. She was riding as a passenger on the vehicle and had fallen off prior to being run over.

She was taken to the New Ulm Medical Center but had to be flown to Hennepin County Medical Center due to the seriousness of her condition. The police report of the incident indicates she suffered injuries to her neck.

Police interviewed Hearn around 6:50 p.m. at the Morgan Creek parking lot and arrested him after his breath test returned a blood-alcohol level of 0.189. He blew 0.13 during another test conducted at 9:48 p.m. that day. He previously plead guilty to DWI in 2007.

Hearn told police he was "stone cold sober" the entire day prior to the accident and had slammed three glass of wine afterward to "settle his nerves."

Hearn was charged with two counts of gross misdemeanor DWI and gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation.

Blue Earth County Judge Bradley Walker dismissed the charges in his Oct. 15, 2013 ruling, citing a lack of probable cause for the charges.